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The Melody Lingers On: 'S Wonderful

Tony Thornton has a way with a song – and a way with words. Here he tells of a performance of George Gershwin’s catchy remember-for-ever number, ‘S Wonderful.

For more of Tony’s wonderfully entertaining articles about the great tunes from the vintage era of popular music please click on The Melody Lingers On in the menu on this page.

Stage fright is a terrible affliction. Some of the most competent entertainers suffer from it despite giving a flawless performance (every time!) when they get on the stage. ‘Why do I do it?’ they ask. ‘Why do I put myself through this agony?’ For agony it surely is.

I know entertainers who throw up with fright just before going on.

A friend of mine reluctantly agreed to sing a couple of songs at his mate’s birthday party. But even such an informal gathering in the pub filled him with dread. He wasn’t a natural singer and feared he would fail with just keyboard accompaniment. His host came up with a great idea. How about if he produced some backing tracks? Using his electronic keyboard he could add a rhythm section, strings and various other instruments.

My friend warmed to this idea even though as a musician he believed in ‘keeping music live’, and that backing tracks were putting musicians out of business. One of the songs he chose was George Gershwin’s ’S Wonderful because it’s easy to sing. In the first four bars there are only two words (the second – ’S Marvellous – falling on a delicious diminished chord). No vocal gymnastics required here. The middle eight bars is a major third key change but it’s easy to find – indeed eight of the ten syllables of the second line are on the same note.

My friend was somewhat reassured by this but there were two days to go – long enough for his confidence to drain and the old boot-quaking feelings to return. This is the point when the nerve-ridden find any amount of reasons why they should forget the whole thing. Why do it anyway? Why go through this torment? But there was no getting out of it.

The moment arrived. He was announced and he clambered up on to the stage. He tried to smile but his face contorted. His legs shook and the hand holding the microphone trembled embarrassingly. ‘I will never do this again’, he vowed. The audience quietened and someone pressed a button on the keyboard.

A light bossa nova smoothed out of the speakers. There is something intensely satisfying about this rhythm. It rolls over you like a calming wave.

Somehow the words came out: ’S wonderful, ’S marvellous. You should care for me.
Two bars rest – take a deep breath: ’S Awful nice, ’S Paradise. ’S what I love to see.

The barman stopped pouring. Glasses stopped clinking. When the strings came in there were sighs from the sea of faces – heads tilting slightly, silently mouthing the words. He relaxed, sensing it was going well.

And then it was over. The music stopped and for five ear-splitting seconds there was silence. It was as if no one realised it was finished. Then as my friend made a little bow the applause began. As he raised his head the crowed cheered for more, and he thought again of the question. ‘Why do I do it?’ He looked around the room at the faces whose gleams betrayed the pleasure he had given them – and suddenly I (sorry, he!) knew the answer.

’S wonderful, ’S marvellous
You should care for me
’S awful nice, It’s paradise
’S what I love to see

You’ve made my life so glamorous
You can’t blame me for feeling amorous
Oh ’S wonderful, ’S marvellous
That you should care for me

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